With only a few weeks until the winter road closures commence, I had the opportunity to spend Mother’s Day in the alps near Mt Hotham and reach the 500 point half-goat level. I spent the Saturday at a ski lodge work party at Mt Hotham which conveniently located me in the heart of the alps for an early start on Sunday morning. I specifically wanted to target those summits that would be inaccessible over winter and leave the more accessible ones for the bonus period. I also needed to be back in Melbourne Sun night, so went for 3 drive-up (mostly) summits accessed via Blue Rag Range track.
Setting off at 7:15 from Mt Hotham, I headed for the Dargo High Plains Rd which is about 10km from the village. There had been rain over night and it was still quite cloudy/foggy in places, but clear in the higher areas. There was low lying cloud in most of the valleys as you can see in the pictures – weather like this makes for some spectacular views.
Some distance down the Dargo Rd, I came to the Blue Rag Range track which is a well used 4WD track. The road condition was quite reasonable despite the overnight rain as the track is quite rocky in the main. About half way along the track I turned left onto Basalt Knob Track North which takes you south to Ritchie Rd and Basalt Knob.
There is a helipad beside the road at its point of closest approach to the summit. I was expecting to be able to drive up to the summit, but hadn’t looked at the map closely enough and the helipad is just outside the activation zone. No problems, I threw the pack on and headed up to the actual summit – only about 100m walk through open scrub.
The weather was cool and partially cloudy, but with very little wind which made the 2 deg temperature feel quite comfortable.
I set up the EFHW as usual with the KX3 and then realised that I’d left my mobile phone in the car! I called on 7.090 figuring someone would be listening and was promptly rewarded with Gerard VK2IO coming back and offering to spot me. I worked a few more on 40m and then moved to 80m for the local chasers. No problem qualifying it in a fairly short time. It was then very close to roll-over, so I decided to stay and work everyone again post rollover given I was on a 10 point summit, so ended up with a total of 22 contacts – not bad with the current band conditions.
This activation was also significant as it took me to 500 activator points and my half-goat – a good milestone. At my current rate, probably another three years to goatdom.
A quick walk back to the car saw me re-tracing my path back to Blue Rag Range track and onwards to Blue Rag Range itself. Arriving on schedule at the trig point, I set up off one side of the parking area with generally cloudy/foggy conditions and a light wind which made the 2 deg temperature feel much cooler this time and I had to rug up.
For this activation, I had resolved to give CW another try, it being more than 18 months since I last used it from a summit. With some trepidation I spotted and called CQ on 7.032 MHz. Listening hard for a VKxxx call, I was rapidly thrown off my thought train with John ZL1BYZ coming back to me much faster than I could copy! After a couple of QRSs he slowed to a pace I could cope with and managed to complete the contact. I then had two stations calling on top of one another to add extra challenge for a beginner. I recognised VK2IO and then VK2NP and completed those contacts. Fourth CW contact was Ian VK5IS (Ian’s call sign has a lot of dits in it!) qualifying my first summit on CW.
I then switched to SSB and worked a good selection of chasers on 40 and 80m.
After a quick bite of lunch I drove back down the track to the Mt Blue Rag turn off. This is a much less used track with a significant bog hole a couple of hundred meters in. There were some slightly less muddy side tracks and I managed to negotiate this without getting bogged, but it would be wise to only attempt this track if you have recovery gear to deal with getting bogged.
Mt Blue Rag has quite a flat summit area and so I found a suitable high spot and set up just off the track. There are plenty of trees here and while I used a squid pole, it would be quite feasible to hang the antenna from a tree.
This summit was quite protected from wind and so it was much more comfortable than the exposed summit of Blue Rag Range. I again decided to start on 7.032 MHz CW. I placed a spot and called CQ. This time I was ready for the ZL call and managed the contact much better. After again qualifying the summit on CW, I completed the day with another 11 SSB contacts.
I briefly contemplated doing a 4th activation, but decided that given I had a 5 hour drive home that I should call it a day.
A very successful day with all the activations going as planned and achieving both 500 activator points and my first 2 CW summit qualifications.